Deepening students' scientific inquiry skills during a science museum field trip
Field trips to science museums can provide students with educational experiences, particularly when museum programs emphasize scientific inquiry skill building over content knowledge acquisition. We describe the creation and study of 2 programs designed to significantly enhance students' inquiry skills at any interactive science museum exhibit without the need for advanced preparation by teachers or chaperones. The programs, called Inquiry Games, utilized educational principles from the learning sciences and from visitor studies of museum field trips. A randomized experimental design compared 2 versions of the games to 2 control conditions. Results indicate that the groups that learned the Inquiry Games significantly out- performed the control groups in the duration and quality of several inquiry skills when using a novel exhibit, with effect sizes ranging from 0.3σ to 0.8σ . The highest gains came from an Inquiry Game that was structured and collaborative rather than spontaneous and individualized. Students and chaperones in all conditions reported enjoying the experience. These results mirror those found in a previous study in which family groups learned the Inquiry Games.